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2: This is how I went for a promotion
I think it'll work out.
I'm putting myself forward for promotion soon.
This issue is all about what that looks like.
Well, firstly - my manager is the one who puts me forward. But not without my input. And at the time I'm sending this newsletter, I've given all my input and am now just playing the waiting game until the performance review window is over (we have two of these a year), to see if I get promoted or not.
Undoubtedly, the process of getting promoted differs significantly from company to company. I've only been promoted in the field of content marketing at two different companies. One, an early-stage startup. The other, my current employer (a scaleup). Both tech. Both fintech, actually. And, of course, both in London here in the UK.
How I think about promotions
To me, a promotion is the ultimate proof point of your professional development.
To use a phrase I dislike, your relationship with your employer is one of value exchange. You have skills that earn them money. They pay you money in exchange for those skills. If you're getting better at what you do, you increase the value your employer gets.
Therefore, they should reciprocate by increasing the value you get - your salary.
What about praise?
Praise is all well and good. In fact, I think it's also essential. But all the praise in the world falls flat if your employer never puts their money where their mouth is.
If you were always cooking food that your friends say looks delicious, but they never try a bite... you'd start to wonder if they were being genuine.
The old adage stands true here: Actions speak louder than words.
(But words are very important too.)
The power of job titles
To take this back a step, salary increases can come without a promotion. By which I mean they can come without a change to your title. I like the title change, though, because it increases your value potential. More jargon there. Let's clear that up:
Meet candidate 1. They've been a Content Marketing Manager for four years. Now meet candidate 2. They've been a Content Marketing Executive for two years, a Content Marketing Manager for one year, and a Content Lead for one year.
They could both be equally good at content marketing. Or one could be vastly better than the other. And yes, a perfect interview process would sort that out.
But humans aren't perfect.
If you asked me to bet on who could land the higher salary job, I'd put money on candidate 2. They've shown fast progression. And at first glance, one would assume a Content Lead to be better at content marketing than a Content Marketing Manager.
That’s the power of the title.
Preparing all year round
Although a lot of work happens right before the performance review period begins, it'd be a whole lot more work if I didn't have a few things I do throughout the year.
1. Regularly talk about promotions with my manager
I have a fortnightly one-to-one with my manager. I don't discuss my overall development, and goal of promotion, every time. But I do bring it up maybe every few meetings or so.
Because development is important to me. And I see promotions as the ultimate mark of recognition of development that your employer can give you. A two-way transparency street makes this whole thing a lot easier. I let them know what matters to me, they tell me what it takes to get it (or have a good chance at getting it).
And this should be a mutually desirable outcome. You aren't asking for more money and title for nothing. You want to make yourself worth that to the company. You and your employer should both be invested in making you a more valuable resource.
2. Keep a work log
This is a live doc I perpetually keep open in a browser tab. It's a spreadsheet that tracks what I'm working on. Each sheet covers a single week. Within a sheet, columns cover the date, start and stop times (which I previously used for quarterly time tracking summaries, but haven't calculated in ages), task, and notes.
Since my promotion doc looks back at basically the past 12 months, I'd be useless at pulling together everything I worked on without this doc.
3. Keep a performance journal
"Praise journal" would be a better name, but for whatever reason I named the doc this instead. This is actually an idea that was inspired by an ex-colleague of mine. Every time someone praises my work in a written format (e.g. an email or Slack message), I try to remember to screenshot it and dump it in this doc.
While I don't lift these screenshots directly into my promotion proposal doc, it's a good reminder of what people thought was impactful. Which makes those projects worth referencing.
What my promotion proposal looks like
If my manager is firing the gun on my promotion proposal, I need to load the ammunition first. That’s this doc.
Before we get into that, it's important to know that my employer has an internal competency framework that guides hiring and promotions. For me, this is a list of skills that content marketers are expected to have at GoCardless, and the different levels of seniority content marketers can be. At each level, you can see differences in those skills. So naturally a rank 1 content marketer wouldn't be expected to have copywriting skills anywhere near as good as a rank 3, for example.
When I put forward a promotion proposal, I essentially need to prove I'm operating at the next level already. Which means my proposal contains these three things:
A comparison of my current and proposed roles (using the competency framework), noting where I've exceeded expectations and what my areas of improvement are (self-awareness and a plan for further improvement are 👌)
My business impact since my last promotion (using the results of projects I worked on, compared against the company OKRs)
Feedback from others on my performance (speaking specifically to the points on the competency framework)
The process to assemble it
Bullet point everything I've worked on in the past 12 months.
Create a three column table - competencies of current role, competencies of next level up, points of evidence.
For each competency, run through my list of work to find the projects that demonstrate me meeting the next level up. Add to column three in green bullet points.
For each competency, think through how I can further improve. Add to column three in red bullet points.
For competencies that can't be proved by my work (e.g. how good of a communicator I am), I make note to get feedback on them from others I work with.
Create a two column table - OKRs, my contributions.
For each OKR, run through my list of work to find the projects that contributed. List them, with a few bullet points on the results of the project and my contribution.
Run through my list of work one more time, and jot down the main people I worked with. Then email/Slack them, asking for feedback on me. With the competency framework to give them points to speak to.
With all this in the one doc, I shoot it across to my manager, then wait.
I thought I'd have some cool way to bring this to a close. But it's quite a dense email, and there's not much more to say. I wanted to share my thoughts on promotions, and how I've approached my latest attempt. I'll let you all know how it goes in a future issue, I’m sure.
If you think I've missed a trick, let me know.
Otherwise, have yourself a lovely week.